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Villiger Dismisses Majority of U.S. Staff (Update)

Villiger Cigars has dismissed the majority of its U.S. sales and support staff, save for three individuals who handle inside sales for the company in their domestic headquarters.

Shawna Williams, the company’s former vice president, told halfwheel that she resigned from the company about three weeks ago, while many of the company’s reps and support staff were told of their dismissal today.

An individual who had been with Villiger told halfwheel that the company went so far as to cut off company credit cards while their reps were on the road, leaving them scrambling to get home and sort out what might be next for them.

The move comes as a shock to a company that seemed to be headed towards expanded U.S. growth; earlier this year the company entered into a logistics agreement with Sutliff Tobacco, with the company providing warehouses, logistics and backoffice sales support, including customer invoicing, accounts receivable and customer service while Villiger would maintain its own sales, telesales and marketing teams that focused on its retailer and distributor relationships. That relationship hasn’t gone as hoped, according to one former Villiger employee, who said that it was expected that the relationship would be dissolved by spring of 2016.

The company has also tried to reinvigorate its domestic catalog, launching the Villiger Connecticut Krēmē, Trill by Villiger and the Villiger Cabareté Maduro in the spring of 2014.

Shortly after this article went up, a press release was issued by Michael Blumendeller, managing director of Villiger Cigars North America. It reads as follows:

Villiger North America Announces Restructure Plan for 2016

Villiger Cigars will be celebrating its 128th Anniversary in 2016.  We are a company that was founded on the guiding principle and commitment of providing the cigar industry with the best quality cigars possible.  To this day, we still commit to that promise.

We also take our commitment to the American market very seriously.  Over the past few months, we have made necessary changes in an effort to strengthen our core business and values.  Our time at Sutliff Tobacco Company has been short but very successful and we are forever grateful for the outstanding support they have given us as we worked to determine the best course of action for the future of our American structure.  In this moment, we find it necessary to make additional strategic changes that will continue to support the effort of a clearly defined business model.

We are pleased to announce that in early 2016, Villiger North America, will establish its new headquarters in the Miami, FL area.  The move to Florida will allow us more convenient access to the ports of entry as well as ease of access to our manufacturing facilities in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Brazil.

We are also pleased to announce that with this move, we will be naming our new General Manager who will guide us into this new phase of our North American entity.  While it is not yet time to reveal this new GM, rest assured this person comes to us with many years of experience – specifically in the cigar industry.  More information to come.

As part of this restructure we have determined it best for the interim, to strategically move to a sales structure of brokers and inside sales support.  Rest assured, Villiger Cigars is open for business and we are still in the US market and we are here to stay!  We are eagerly planning the launch of a few new cigars at the IPCPR in Las Vegas in 2016!

We greatly appreciate our customers business and loyalty and commit to make this time of transition and restructuring as seamless as possible.

Michael Blumendeller
Managing Director
Villiger North America, Inc.

Patrick Lagreid: I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the Spring Training public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies, PA announcer for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, and PA announcer for the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA. I'm also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice talent and writer, among other things. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.